§ion=&combo2=&text1=&text2=&SocNetUsername=&SocNetPassword=&authCode=& 7th Decade Thoughts: The Sportswriter by Richard Ford

7th Decade Thoughts

Thoughts about books, politics and history (personal and otherwise), pictures I've taken and pictures I've edited.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Sportswriter by Richard Ford

I bought Independence Day some time ago and was considering The Lay of the Land when a friend said I should read the whole trilogy in order so I started on The Sportswriter. I was initially drawn in by the writing style: informal, slightly comic, completely honest. This is one of the most interesting novels of “everyday life” I can think of; it’s also a novel that gives me real insights into how men think. I’ve never got into Updike’s Rabbit novels, figured they must appeal primarily to men, but this one did interest me.

Frank Bascombe became a sportswriter when he reached a point in his writing career—he’d published one book of stories—when he decided he didn’t have enough to say. It was a compromise that he accepted whole-heartedly. He’s not exactly gung ho, but he takes his job seriously. He also doesn’t let it define him, preferring to live in a small New Jersey town rather than in New York, to choose the sports he writes about, and not be defined by his job.

The action takes place on an Easter weekend, when he meets his ex-wife to visit the grave of their son, and plans to have Easter dinner with his girlfriend, a divorced nurse named Vicki. He also meets with a man from his divorced men’s group, someone he doesn’t know well but who adopts him as his “best friend”. The guy is stressed out because, while his ex-wife went to Bimini with her man friend, he went home with another man and had sex with him and can’t reconcile himself to what he did. There are some flashbacks: Frank’s divorce, the death of his son, college in Ann Arbor where he met his wife, conversations with a palmist, a Detroit trip with Vicki to interview a ballplayer now confined a wheelchair. Throughout Frank is self-effacing, philosophical, warm, decent and humane.

By the end of the weekend Vicki has dumped him (after punching him out) and his friend from the divorced men’s group has committed suicide and left the note for him. At loose ends on Easter night he boards the train on a whim and goes to his Manhattan office where a young female intern turns up in his office and he starts a relationship with her. In the weeks following everything changes, but Frank seems still the same decent guy.

Now I’m definitely going on to Independence Day and The Lay of the Land. This is one interesting guy.


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